With Friends like These…Clegg’s Problems
The spat between Nick Clegg and David Laws over ‘Free Schools’ tell us a lot about the pickle the Liberal Democrats are in. Clegg’s Choice, now looking like fulfilling his Cassandra-like fear of destroying the Party he leads, has left the Coalition mudguard little option but to pick issues to get notice. Not only is Nick Clegg outflanked on the Left by the grassroots, he’s also feeling the heat on the Right, something he’ll be distinctly uncomfortable with himself, being an ‘Orange Book’ Liberal by temperament and conviction. The fact that the slap down has come from Laws, a figure who resigned in disgrace over an expenses scandal and is only back as a Minister with the say-so of Clegg himself, just shows how rough and tumble the sport of politics can be. Nick Clegg must have some regrets over never taking Labour seriously as an option in May 2010. He faces a tough eighteen months to try and salvage something from the 2015 General Election. His advisors and he believe that only differentiation from the Tories can save them now. Yet, with Ed Miliband’s star possibly on the ascent, though the recent attack on Ralph Miliband is just an indication of the personal campaign to come, Clegg knows he is on his uppers. Politics always throws up surprises; at this stage if the game, the Liberal Democrats need a lot of things to turn up. But sometimes in politics you just run out of options, such as with Gordon Brown from 2008-2010 when, in retrospect, the tunnel just kept getting darker and darker. A wipe-out beckons; the Party may survive but Clegg’s legacy is a different matter.
If it’s Not Love, then it’s the Bomb
Eric Schlosser’s ‘Command and Control’, serves to remind us all how precarious the nuclear balance of terror was and how close we’ve come to accidental Armageddon since the dawning of the atomic age. Drawing on recently declassified records and extensive interviews, Schlosser highlights the 1980 Damascus Incident in Arkansas where a Titan II Hydrogen Bomb nearly exploded; the devastation would have been appalling, much of the State would have been wiped off the map and a certain Bill Clinton, Arkansas Governor at the time, would never have become President. Yet this, while by far the most serious accident to happen on US Soil, was just one of dozens of incidents, protocol breaches, security blunders and bizarre coincidences that could have caused a) a nuclear detonation and b) an accidental nuclear war where the USSR would respond as though attacked. Such was the precarious hair-trigger nature of ‘MAD’ Game theory. Schlosser quotes senior Service Personnel as saying pure luck meant that there was never a catastrophic explosion or nuclear exchange between the Superpowers. The author is no starry-eyed unilateralist; he believes the technology behind the Bomb can’t be un-invented. But he does espouse a rigorous form of multilateralism – missile reduction with rigid controls. We don’t like to think about a possible Nuclear Holocaust – it’s something we store away in a compartmentalised part of the brain labelled ‘denial’. ‘Command and Control’ shows how we were fortunate not to have had Armageddon and how we run colossal risks just by having these ‘destroyers of Worlds’ around at all. We came very close to not being here and we would have never known about it; the World would have ended both with a bang and a whimper.
Commanding the Moral Heights
President Obama has successfully seen off a Tea Party attempt to derail his health care programme. But a potentially cataclysmic clash between the TP and the ‘Norms’ i.e. rest of Congress, will re-erupt in the New Year. Gary Younge writes in the Guardian of how race is a defining but frequently unspoken issue for the Republican Right. They simply haven’t accepted Obama’s legitimacy. There’s a valid argument that a lot of ‘the South’, both as a geographical and metaphorical term, have yet to accept Reconstruction, let alone desegregation. The Civil war is still being fought out in the slogans and prejudices of recalcitrant political knuckle-draggers unable to believe that a black man now occupies the White House. The fact that he’s a highly intelligent graduate just makes things worse! These new Jacobins can exploit the US constitution to the hilt in an all out effort to defeat the democratic will. Some people just want to win at all costs; they want to see the World burn. Obama has many flawed or simply plain wrong policies, but as long as there’s a Tea Party willing to sabotage any good he tries to accomplish, he has the higher moral ground; it’s a terrain from where he can do the things he was elected to do. Life isn’t like ‘The West Wing’ though – the good guys don’t always win.